Prevent article published on British Library Portal

Prevent article published on British Library Portal

Evaluating politically sensitive social programmes: the case of Preventing Violent Extremism (Prevent).


29 April 2013

Evaluating politically sensitive social programmes: the case of Preventing Violent Extremism (Prevent).

Giorgia Iacopini and Laura Stock from Tavistock Institute of Human Relations share their reflections on evaluating politically sensitive social programmes from their experiences of evaluating Preventing Violent Extremism programmes, which can be found on British Library’s Management and Business Studies Portal.

The current climate of unusually scarce resources is increasing the pressure on organisations and therefore managers to identify and demonstrate the effectiveness and success of their work. This pressure is amplified within complex and politically sensitive social programmes, such as in health and social care, crime, youth services or community cohesion. There are often challenging organisational dynamics at play: the programmes themselves maybe politically or ideologically contested; there can be tensions between different stakeholders (central, local government and community stakeholders) over the focus and purpose of activities; outcomes and impacts of ‘what works’ can be uncertain and difficult to evidence (especially given time and budget constraints); and the work can trigger emotional responses in local communities and in the media.

The Tavistock Institute (TIHR), through its integrated evaluation and consultancy practice, has developed approaches to help managers better understand and navigate these organisational dynamics, as well as to generate useful evidence of ‘what works’ in programmes where hard outcomes are difficult to measure. Using the example of the Preventing Violent Extremism (Prevent) strategy, in situations of low certainty about what complex social interventions can achieve and vastly divergent thinking across, and between stakeholders, evaluation can be a strategy to help alleviate and address these tensions and provide results that can support the development of future work.

Drawing on two case studies as examples of our TIHR work, we provide suggestions on how evaluation can be a useful intervention for managers who need to design and deliver programmes in contested social policy fields. We seek to address the following questions:

  • What kinds of difficulties and challenges do organisations and managers experience when designing and implementing politically sensitive social programmes?
  • In situations where outcomes are difficult to measure, what kinds of evaluation results can still be meaningful and support organisations in responding to complex public policy challenges?

To read the full article please visit the British Library’s Management and Business Studies Portal.

For further information, please contact Giorgia Iacopini.

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